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Last edited 09 Jan 2020
Any building or structure, or part thereof, which due to its parlous structural state is liable to cause harm to its users and passers-by, whether now or in the future, is regarded as dangerous. This can include walls with serious evidence of cracking or subsidence, floor members that exhibit excessive bending and parts or components which have already failed, such as coping stones which have become dislodged and have either fallen to the street below or look as if they are about to. Also, if a building or structure is carrying loads that make it look as if it might be in danger of failing, it is also considered dangerous.
Although the term ‘dangerous’ is frequently used to describe the physical state of a structure, a building can also be dangerous if it contains materials such as asbestos which are hazardous to health. If such materials are discovered, they should be referred to the local authority immediately and a professional removal contractor called in to make the building safe for occupation.
In the UK, where a building or part of a building (or structure) exhibits serious structural deficiencies and poses a danger to health, the local authority can apply to a magistrate’s court to force the owner to:
- Repair the building or render it safe, or
- Demolish it to remove the danger. This will also mean the owner being responsible for the removal of the demolished materials to a designated waste disposal facility.
During the time taken for either of the above two options to be completed, the local authority can issue a court order restricting use of the building until that time when all the required works have been carried out to the satisfaction of a magistrate’s court.
A local authority can also force owners to act immediately to remove any dangers if the situation is deemed to be an emergency (see below). Alternatively, it may decide to take the necessary action itself, in which case it can recover from the owner any reasonably-incurred expenses. This can include fencing-off arrangements and monitoring of the structure.
 Demolishing a dangerous building
There are severe penalties for illegally demolishing a building or structure, even if it is in a parlous state. A small outhouse, for instance, even if unsafe, may seem architecturally insignificant but could have great historical significance.
Demolition of a dangerous building must be backed by sound reasons, for example, if it forms part of improvement or rebuilding works. In most cases, the planning applications for such works usually include the reason for demolition which will either be permitted or not in the final planning ruling.
Any intention to demolish – even a dangerous building – must be communicated to the local authority. It will then issue an acknowledgement or notice requiring the owner to provide further information; the reasons for the demolition, and the method to be used. For example, a wrecking ball may be inappropriate in some circumstances.
The owner is usually required to circulate copies of their notice to various parties with an interest in the building, such as the gas and electricity providers, the building occupier and the local authority.
Some structures may not fall under the provisions of the Building Act 1984. Greenhouses, conservatories, sheds, some agricultural buildings and prefabricated garages (that form part of a building) may not be affected. It is therefore crucial to seek the advice of the local authority in any case of doubt concerning a proposed demolition.
 Very dangerous buildings
- Shore up any adjacent buildings.
- Ensure that any surfaces of adjacent buildings that are exposed as a result of the demolition are made weatherproof.
- Require the owner to make good any damage the demolition causes to adjacent buildings.
- Remove demolition waste.
- Disconnect and seal any sewers and drains under the building.
- Arrange for the disconnection of utilities by the relevant utilities.
- Leave the site in a safe and satisfactory condition.
- What the danger is.
- The exact location of the danger.
- How long the danger has existed.
- Whether it poses an immediate threat to public safety.
- Contact details of the owner, if known.
- Contact details of the reporting party, in case the local authority needs more information.
For more information see: Demolition.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Approved documents.
- Approved inspector.
- Building control body.
- Conservation area.
- Failure to comply with the building regulations.
- Full plans.
- How long it takes to get building regulations approval and how long it lasts.
- Listed building.
- Planning permission.
- Statutory approvals.
- Statutory authorities.
- The Building Act.
- The difference between planning permission building regulations approval.
- What approvals are needed before construction begins.
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